During winter, many animals hibernate. This includes some of the pets we live with.
Mammals mostly enjoy this long break, but also reptiles, despite the fact that they are cold-blooded animals.
Why do animals hibernate?
Hibernation is a physiological response to adapt to the harsh winter temperatures. It consists of reducing the vital functions to a minimum in order to save energy. During hibernation, metabolic activity is reduced, the temperature drops but remains stable and the water in the animals’ blood does not freeze. When winter arrives, hibernating animals take refuge in their burrows and stay there until spring and the mating season.
Which animals hibernate?
Most animals that hibernate are mammals, warm-blooded animals that need to adapt to the change in temperature. These animals include marmots, squirrels, dormice, hedgehogs, bats, raccoons and skunks.
Some reptile species, however, are also subject to this long pause, e.g. snakes, lizards and frogs.
Between both mammals and reptiles there are pets that hibernate.
Hamsters belong to the first category. These small rodents only hibernate when the temperature drops below 8°C. It is therefore rare for this survival mechanism to be triggered in a pet hamster, but it is much more common for hamsters born and bred in the wild.
Domestic hamsters are not prepared for the long winter sleep. If, therefore, our furry friend has a lethargic response to a sudden change in temperature, it is advisable to wake him up gradually by cuddling him lovingly. Such a situation can occur if they escape from the cage or go outside on cold winter days.
The tortoise, on the other hand, belongs to the reptile category. Both land and water turtles, which are used to living in gardens and ponds, hibernate. After a few days of drowsiness and lack of appetite, they find the right shelter to begin hibernation on their own.
If, however, turtles live at home with us, it is necessary to prepare the right shelter for them. Aquatic turtles, for example, should be placed in bowls with a few centimeters of water to prevent dehydration and their health should be constantly monitored.
As a general rule, pets do not hibernate unless they suffer the effects of a major temperature change. In our houses, the temperature is mild and pleasant even in winter, but it is good to learn how to recognize a hibernating animal in order to be able to check his health.